The early days of a relationship are full of warm, fuzzy feelings. And when you’re in the throes of infatuation, it can feel awkward to bring up your sexual history with a new partner. However, open conversation and the right STI testing are key to safely taking your relationship to the next level.
Remember, STIs are common and nothing to be embarrassed about. Regular screenings are an essential part of your sexual health. Scheduling the following tests will give you and your new love interest the peace of mind necessary to truly connect.
Chlamydia & Gonorrhea
These sexually transmitted infections are two of the most common, and doctors often test for them together. During the test, the healthcare provider will either ask for a urine sample or swab the genital area. They may also want to test the oral and anal areas, depending on your sexual history. If you’re using an at-home STI testing kit through a company like Nurx, be sure to follow the instructions carefully for accurate results.
Tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea are quick, so you’ll be in and out (of either the clinic or your bathroom) in no time. If you have the test done at your doctor’s office, they will contact you if you receive a positive test.
Treatment for chlamydia typically involves oral antibiotics, while gonorrhea treatment may include both antibiotic pills and injections. You’ll be good to go once the doctor confirms that your infection has cleared. But you and your partner will likely need to abstain until then.
Both clinics and at-home testing kits can screen for syphilis along with chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, you’ll need a blood sample to check for this infection. A medical provider will order a typical blood draw; you’ll simply prick your finger if testing at home. Clinics might also do a swab test if any sores are present.
Penicillin is the standard treatment for syphilis, and the infection typically clears quickly in the early stages. Again, your doctor will recommend avoiding sexual activity until the infection is completely gone.
Known by its nickname “trich,” trichomoniasis is the most common curable STI. The infection is caused by a microscopic parasite that spreads to the genital area through sexual contact. Since most people don’t have symptoms, it’s smart to include trich testing in your STI screening plan.
If you receive a positive test, your medical provider will prescribe oral antibiotics. Keep in mind that it’s possible to be infected with trich again after treatment. (It happens to about one in five people who contract the infection.) Your partner may need to take antibiotics as well to ensure that the pesky parasites stay away for good.
Herpes is another common infection that many people don’t know they have, since the virus can lay dormant for years. So even if you don’t have any active sores, it’s wise to get a test to be sure you’re in the clear. The clinic will likely order a blood test to screen for the herpes virus. But if you have any sores, the provider will simply swab the sore and send it for a viral culture.
A positive herpes test can be shocking news, given that there is no cure. However, your doctor can help you manage the infection with antivirals such as Valacyclovir to control flare-ups. Communicating with your partner and learning about the virus will help you maintain your sexual wellness.
About 80% of sexually active individuals will become infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) at some point. This infection doesn’t always cause symptoms, yet it’s still possible to pass it to your partner through skin-to-skin contact. Some strains of HPV pose a greater health risk than others, with some linked to cervical and anal cancers.
There are no HPV tests available for men; diagnosis generally occurs when warts are seen on the genitals or in the groin area. Doctors can test for the virus in women through Pap smears.
Many cases of HPV clear up on their own without causing issues. However, if you or your partner test positive for HPV, you should talk to your respective doctors about managing the condition. Women should also plan to be screened for abnormal cells at their annual checkups.
You might not think to test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) when making your STI testing plan. However, knowing your HIV status will empower your relationship with your current and future partners. Nearly one in eight people with HIV aren’t aware of their infection, The CDC recommends that all adolescents and adults receive an HIV test at least once in their lifetime. The same agency guidelines encourage gay and bisexual men to recieve testing more frequently.
When being tested for HIV, you’ll either receive a blood test or oral swab. Your healthcare provider will counsel you on your options if you receive a positive test. Modern medicine has made this once rapidly fatal virus manageable. Individuals with HIV can take medication to lower the viral load in their body, while their partners can take preventive medications as well.
As you start a new relationship, it’s important to remember that many STIs can be present in the body without causing symptoms. Comprehensive STI testing is the only way to ensure that you’re free of infection. Otherwise, you could risk developing symptoms later on and unknowingly spread an STI.
It’s undeniable that discussing sexually transmitted infections with a new partner can be uncomfortable. However, by being open and getting tested, you ensure that both of you have the green light to begin a fulfilling sexual relationship. And if a test comes up positive, you’ve already laid the groundwork for an honest and judgment-free discussion.